Ballsiness isn’t a modern invention – as long as human civilization has existed, people have been demonstrating their badassdom. Every week, we’ll look back into the mists of time and spotlight a truly ballsy moment in history.
Julius Caesar is perhaps the most famous emperor Rome ever saw, extending the empire past the English Channel and into what is now Germany. Needless to say, he was a ballsy dude.
Before taking the throne, Caesar was stripped of his family inheritance and joined the army to get away from political rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla. He distinguished himself as a Legionnaire, serving with distinction in Asia and Europe. When Sulla died in 78 BC, Caesar returned to Rome to re-establish his family.
Caesar was sailing across the Aegean Sea with his crew when his ship was waylaid by Sicilian pirates. They captured him and, recognizing that he was a man of status, told his crew to pay them 20 talents of silver (worth about $600,000) in exchange for his safe return.
Julius Caesar wasn’t happy about this price – in fact, he felt he was worth much more. So he insisted that his crew not capitulate to the pirates’ demands until they raise the ransom amount to 50 talents! Of course, the pirates were fine with this bizarre turn of events, but it was all part of Caesar’s plan.
With his crew out gathering the funds, Caesar started ingratiating himself with the pirates, playing games with them and reciting poetry. He wasn’t completely friendly, though – the future emperor swore that once the ransom was paid, he was going to return to Sicily, find the pirates, and crucify them. They laughed off his threats, but this would prove prophetic.
His crew returned with the 50 talents, and the pirates were good to their word and released Caesar. He returned to Rome, assembled a small fleet and sailed immediately back to Sicily, where he and his men overwhelmed the pirates. He sailed away not only with the silver, but also everything the pirates had stolen from other people. And, just like he said, Julius had them crucified like a boss, in defiance of the proconsul of Asia who wanted to take them into custody as slaves. In one final act of mercy, Caesar allowed them to have their throats cut first.
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